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Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...

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David Roth Weiss
Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 16, 2007 at 9:51:58 pm

First, let me start by saying that I'm editing a pretty bad HD feature for some friends, which I may or may not be able to salvage, simply because there is precious little story and what there is, is pretty bad. But, making matters worse is the fact that the prima donna French cameraman, who speaks almost zero Englaise, seems to be blind, at least with regard to certain aspects of basic composition.

After viewing nearly ten hours of dailies, its quite obvious that everything is weighted very heavily toward the top of the frame. Closeups cut off peoples heads, but even the wide shots clearly have too little headroom and way too much of everything else, so much so that I originally suspected that issue might be paralax in the camera. However, after watching Mr. French go on a ten-minute tirade completely defending his compositions, I realized that he must have some sort of fundamental problem with perception. There is no doubt in my mind that any of you on this forum would be able to see the issue in a heartbeat after watching just a few takes of any randomly selected roll in the entire production.

So, should I just blowup everything slightly and repo every offending shot in the movie? Or do I insist that the producers have the material evaluated by an outside party? BTW, for the record, the money is good and I'm doing it for the money, so walking is not a great option.

THNX for any help any of you might be willing to offer,
DRW


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Blub06
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 16, 2007 at 10:18:11 pm

First things first, edit the thing. After that do the reposition with blow up. As you know music and all the layers of story telling can mask bad stuff enough that what seemed a joke actually fools some into thinking its the real deal.

If the Producers are freaked, you might want to cut a scene or two with all the sound and visuals and reposition to show the producers what you can do. In other words, you get to imply that you can save the day. Will anyone other then the French guy know the image is degraded somewhat?

You could use a popular and modern technique of using several shots on the screen at once. I think the show 24 does this as well as others. You can reposition blow up and then reduce and keep the quality.

You could also go Cinemascope. Dramatically reform the frame so it is crazy wide. Sometimes it works.

Chris


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 16, 2007 at 11:00:28 pm

[Blub06] "First things first, edit the thing. After that do the reposition with blow up."

Agreed Chris... Telling the story certainly comes first, but, I'm concerned that the blind, defensive, argumentative Frenchman will go on shooting the same lousy compositions for the next five weeks of scheduled shooting.

A big part of the post process should involve providing helpful feedback to those in production. I know if I were shooting this stuff I'd give a medal to the editor who helped me improve the project. But, this guy is just acting like a threatened little boy. I suspect its because my experience clearly trumps his own many times over. Its not a good scene...

DRW


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Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 17, 2007 at 2:40:11 am

Sounds to me like the director is just as big a problem as cin


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Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 17, 2007 at 2:53:08 am

Just thought of another potential solution, depending on the shoot format...

You said this was an HD movie... but I got to thinking that maybe that means you are cutting it in HD, but the acquisition format might have been film, transferred to HD for editing (a couple of your terms like "dailies" and "rolls" makes me think that's the case).

If so... and you decide that blowing up the frames can help the composition, you could insist that they have the negative re-telecined and enlarge it optically at that stage of the game, rather than enlarging the HD version which would lose resolution.

If that's the case, you could blow up 16mm or S16mm a tiny bit (although not much) without noticable resolution loss or grain increase. If it was shot on 35mm or S35mm, you could probably blow it up tons before HD showed grain or resolution problems.

Downside: another 10-hour telecine session would be costly... but it might take that to salvage the project.

T2


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 17, 2007 at 6:48:30 am

[Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.] "You said this was an HD movie... but I got to thinking that maybe that means you are cutting it in HD, but the acquisition format might have been film,"

Acquisition format is actually HDCAM, with a filmout being considered. Ha!!!

I tend to use film chat, i.e. dailies etc. cuz I started in the film biz and still like to think that way. I think they call that wishful thinking...


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 17, 2007 at 6:17:52 am

[Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.] "The first person to direct your worries to is the director, not the producers."

Yep, however, in this case I'm dealing with one of those tricky situations you only find in good old Hollywood, with a wealthy producer/director/actor making only the second film of his life. He is a painter however, and thus he sees that there is an issue, but Mr. Frenchie continues to maintain that this is simply "artistic" framing. And so the plot thickens...

DRW



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Blub06
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 17, 2007 at 5:41:02 am

Holy smackola, you are still shooting and he is still shooting it!

I thought you had all the footage in hand...

You only have one or two goes at solving this as the shoot goes forward. After that no one will want to listen to the complaining editor they have other things to deal with. Get the Producers on your side, that includes the line producer. Get the Director on your side, get the first AD on your side I would even get the lab guys on your side if you are shooting film. By this I mean make your case and have all of them share their opinions about the way its being shot. Then tell them all that needs to be done is more head room. IF there is a need for a creative visual treatment they should want to make their project viable for both markets not just the art market.

Argue that shooting it in a more traditional way would let you have it that way and then if you needed do some dramatic cropping after the fact for the full flower of creative expression you could have it that way too.

Depending on how unknowledgeable the folks are you might slip in a little fib, when you do the film transfer you lose some of the frame, the way its being shoot will only be worse.

I wish I could make strong arguments FOR the Cinematographer, after all this is the cinematographers forum, but I have seen this kind of stuff before and sometimes even the DP is wrong. I think we all know there is clever creative insightful fresh vision and then there is a total emptiness of vision mixed in with no skill and little experience. The two can be confused for each other, but only by the person that is in position of the later.

As Gordon Willis (DP for all the Godfathers, Annie Hall etc) has said, its easy to make pretty pictures its hard to tell a story (with the camera). Its always disappointing to see a film where the cinematography has a odd ball vision that gets in the way of the story.

Chris


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 17, 2007 at 6:41:31 am

[Blub06] "I thought you had all the footage in hand..."

Nope, just the first week in hand at this point... So, I'm simply trying to get everybody onboard the reality train before the hole gets deeper.

[Blub06] "Depending on how unknowledgeable the folks are you might slip in a little fib, when you do the film transfer you lose some of the frame, the way its being shoot will only be worse."

They do want to do a filmout in the end, and so maybe that is the best argument.

[Blub06] "I think we all know there is clever creative insightful fresh vision and then there is a total emptiness of vision mixed in with no skill and little experience."

This one is clearly the later rather than the former... The bad composotion is just one of many faults Mr. French has as a camraman.

Its all a very tangled web... You see, if Frenchie quits or gets fired, then Mr. moneybags feels like a failure. Meanwhile, I don't want to go nuts trying to edit around the crappie camerawork, nor do I want to be viewed as the big bad guy with all the bad news. So, this isn't easy, but then it never is...

DRW







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Bob Cole
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 18, 2007 at 2:24:13 pm

Have you seen the actors? Maybe they have enormous warts on their foreheads.


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Redflag
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 19, 2007 at 12:40:50 am

It could be that the DP is simply after a low brow look?



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Steve Wargo
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 19, 2007 at 5:38:39 am

I think they should hire me to reshoot it.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona

It's a dry heat!


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rmherd
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 20, 2007 at 12:31:23 am

[David Roth Weiss] "After viewing nearly ten hours of dailies, its quite obvious that everything is weighted very heavily toward the top of the frame"

Is the story about heaven, or thoughts, or something else...so that the extra head room is a metaphor?

RH


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bruce alan greene
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 20, 2007 at 6:45:54 pm

David,

My advice to you would be to let the whole issue go and just edit the picture to the best of your ability.

The director and the producer(s) clearly chose the camera person and seem to be satisfied with the photography. Why make them doubt? If you bring up the subject (without being asked) you will put yourself at risk to be replaced. If they are happy with the pictures, than someone will be wrong in this discussion, and it will be you.

As a camera operator of many years, I've been asked to make many compositions I did not care for. Many times I've heard "too much head room" and later "don't cut off the hair!". "Stop centerpunching!" and "Why do you frame so far to one side?". It never really ends when everyone sees the image live in video village and many think they can do it better themselves. "How much skill can it take to pan and tilt?"

I guess my point is that there are many different views on what proper or even, "normal" composition should be. Every individual might have their own set of rules. Personally, I wouldn't rock this boat. Just my 2 cents.

-bruce


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Peter Rummel
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 22, 2007 at 4:18:25 pm

A couple of years ago I was DP on a short for a couple of film students at a famous film school. I set up a MCU shot with what I would consider standard framing. The director wanted me to tilt down and cut off the top of the head. I argued my case, we had a couple of tense words, and I basically said "we can do it your way, but I think it's wrong". He caved, and we shot it with my framing, but I wonder.....

Since then I've noticed many shots in features with little or no head room. It bugs me a little, but if it's consistant can it be considered a technique and not a mistake? You can frame things oddly to increase mystery or tension or suspense. I would be interested in hearing the French cameraman's defence of his framing. Maybe "standard framing" is evolving as we speak. If the director and producer are happy with the footage then that's what matters.

You can have footage that's shaky, out of focus, skewed blue, and wierdly composed and it might be art. I'm not saying it is, but it might be.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 22, 2007 at 5:46:10 pm

Peter,

The reason I titled this "blind cameraman" is because this guy's composition is simply bad composition. Throughout twenty hours of material I looked at, 85% of the shots were simply framed way too high, cutting off information at the top of the frame and revealing way too much information at the bottom. Imagine a MWS (medium wide shot) in which the heads are cut off at the forehead, meanwhile, the shoes and feet are not only completely in the frame, but there is a great deal of excess negative space below the feet. Not good...

DRW


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Bob Cole
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 22, 2007 at 5:51:19 pm

[David Roth Weiss] "the heads are cut off at the forehead, meanwhile, the shoes and feet are not only completely in the frame, but there is a great deal of excess negative space below the feet."


David, English is his second language, right? Maybe he just misunderstood. Tell him you're in "SHOW" business, not "SHOE" business.


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 22, 2007 at 6:03:58 pm

[Bob Cole] "Tell him you're in "SHOW" business, not "SHOE" business."

By George, I think you've got it...


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Redflag
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 23, 2007 at 7:39:42 am

You cant say he isnt putting alot of soul into his work?



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Richard Blakeslee
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 23, 2007 at 6:12:10 pm

Reminds me of a story a friend told me about a feature he was working on -- this was years ago in LA. The rushes where really dark, moody -- underexposed. Everyone seemed worried, etc. After a few weeks (or something--this is a secondhand story, after all) the DP was fired and a new one brought in. Months later my friend saw the trailer at a theater and guess what --? It was made up of a lot of the 'underexposed' footage. Hmm? Maybe the Frenchman is into some kind of new artform. How are we to know? I saw a feature last night (Half Nelson) that was, apparently, handheld the whole time -- without any trick of Steadycam or attempt to smooth it out. It bothered me at first (well really all the way through) but it did kind of grow on you. But the story was compelling, the acting good and soon (for the most part) I found myself just watching the movie. Maybe this will also happen with this film. Just my two cents.

Richard





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Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Re: Blind cameraman??? I need some advice please...
on Mar 23, 2007 at 10:35:48 pm

Bottom line... this is the director's problem. AND his fault for hiring the yahoo of a DP. But if he is fine with the work, so be it.

The editor should feel free to express his opinions about the quality or lack thereof... but if the work is ok with the director and/or producer, why beat a dead horse?... cut it, and move on. It doesn't sound like this is a project that is destined for anyone's reel anyway, no matter how well the editor (or anyone else) "saves it."

As for the director... he's either an idiot, somone who has no business directing, or a wimp. Again, I fault the director for putting up with it. As a director myself, my DP (or ANYONE on my crew) is free to make suggestions about ANYthing. However, that's what they are...suggestions, which I am free to take or leave. I've never had an argument with a DP over which framing (or composition or camera move or whatever) was better for one simple reason: the argument would be a waste of time, because as the director I'm going to win. Period. If Mr. French was working for me and wanted to go on a ten-minute tirade about anything that wasn't the way I saw it he would be making his argument from his car as he drove away.. for good.

And I'm not a hardass... I'm a peach, actually.

T2


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